2020 has been an unprecedented year – a convergence of an unexpected global pandemic, inequality and racial injustice, and a climate and biodiversity crisis – all of which have demanded urgent attention and action. This changed world would have been unimaginable to us this time last year. But there is no going back to the way we were and our new normal has created fresh opportunities for us to change.
Despite the monumental changes imposed by Covid-19, our team, members, and partnerships have grown. This is a reflection of the commitment and aspiration our business members and partners have to addressing the critical environmental problems that threaten to long outlast this pandemic. New member sign-ups, attendance at our events, and use of our resources has rapidly increased whilst people sought to make something positive come out of the pandemic.
This year, I have taken heart from some incredible leaders that are collaborating at scale to influence a change in our world that will be essential for cleaning up our air, water, and soils…and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions in half during the next 10 years, whilst making space for wildlife to thrive.
The pace and the need for accelerating this change must be rapid. The challenge is daunting, but in the words of Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we can become ‘stubborn optimists with a fierce conviction that no matter how difficult, we must and we can rise to the challenge.’
So how has iiE adapted in 2020?
We shifted our events and site visits to virtual wherever possible, and increased the amount of digital content we provided our members and website users. This shift of reduced travel opened up more time we can spend hearing from our customers, whilst also slashing our own greenhouse gas emissions from travel.
Growth this year means that our iiE membership of committed eco-businesses now touches the professional activities of tens of thousands of staff across our network of businesses.
iiE turned 10! The 10th year of the iiE Awards was celebrated through a week-long series of incredible webinars that brought together voices like Sustainable(ish) Jen Gale, Surfers Against Sewage’s Hugo Tagholm, and Greener Marketing guru John Grant. We feel that it is incredibly important for people to hear fresh and inspiring voices to keep us all motivated on reducing our environmental impact, and we plan to continue this series of virtual speaker events throughout 2021.
The numbers are now in for the 2019/2020 audit year – and our members have avoided an outstanding 13,876 tonnes of CO2e annual greenhouse gas emissions. This is a phenomenal annual achievement that includes figures from before the first pandemic lockdown.
And behind the scenes, we have been working with professional organisations to help create pathways for influencing their spheres on taking meaningful (and measurable) action on resource use, preventing environmental harm, and creating positive social impact.
A more positive 2021
2021 will see us start the run-up to COP26, the chance for the UK to host the world’s next climate summit, which aims to ramp up the ambition of creating a low carbon world. This is another opportunity for us to aim high and support members on rising to the challenge.
- From May 2021, all levels will need to carry out a basic carbon footprint based on data available or basic knowledge of organisational resource usage. This is a new addition and will form a core part of the iiE journey. This will help iiE members improve how they set their targets and improve understanding of the areas where they can save the most money whilst also saving the most carbon. The change management process has already begun during one-to-one support calls and has been in response to growing concern from members at all levels at being able to demonstrate that they are reducing their carbon emissions.
- Site audits will be undertaken on a case-by-case basis and will be required for any organisations with a significant environmental footprint and where legal compliance is a major concern within their EMS. iiE will issue guidance for any remote audits to be undertaken using best practice and protocols recommended by IEMA.
- A criterion will be added for members to give credit for publishing their sustainability performance publicly. This could be publishing the executive summary of the iiE audit report or publishing a sustainability section within their annual report.
- In 2021, we will be encouraging our members more than ever to switch to 100% renewable energy, working with partners Green Energy Switch and Ecotricity to help you get the best rates on your energy bills and meet your carbon reduction targets.
- We are building upon our schedule of virtual events to keep connecting you with those ideas and voices that will inspire you to stay stubbornly optimistic.
- We are also growing our team through a new iiE Associate scheme, to help offer more support to implement the iiE standard in business to even more organisations.
These are just a few of our plans. We are running an iiE member and non-member survey to get your views on how we can best support you going forward. If you would like to take part in this important feedback, as well as enter in for a chance to win vouchers, please give us your thoughts here!
Have a safe and restful Christmas and a much more auspicious new year!
April and the iiE Team
April Sotomayor is Responsible Resource Use Lead at environmental charity PECT, and the national lead for PECT’s flagship Investors in the Environment service. April is a Chartered Environmentalist and Full Member of the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).